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Maine's drive-in movie theaters are fighting for survival

In April, it was announced the Bangor Drive-In would be closed indefinitely.

BANGOR, Maine — For many Mainers, there's no beating the nostalgia of a drive-in theater. But this summer, there will be fewer options for those looking to enjoy a double feature in their cars under the stars. 

As online streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu provide alternatives to seeing movies without leaving our homes, drive-in theaters are on their way out.

In April, Bangor Drive-In ownership announced the theater would not open for the 2022 season and would remain closed indefinitely. 

"The ownership of the drive-in has decided not to open for this season, and it was a really, really tough decision," Bangor Drive-In General Manager Scott Warren said. "The pandemic didn't help. Also, the fact that a lot of the major movies were and are going directly to streaming. That doesn't help movie theaters and drive-ins at all." 

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The drive-in initially opened on June 7, 1950, and closed in 1985 after a 35-year run. It reopened again in July 2015.

"It's kind of a big loss," Jeremiah Rancourt, who was looking forward to another summer of outdoor movies at the Bangor Drive-In, said. "It was kind of a nice option for us to get together, and a place for family to meet and enjoy films." 

In March, the Saco Drive-In was officially sold. It opened along U.S. Route 1 in 1939, the year "The Wizard of Oz," starring Judy Garland, hit the big screen.

Officials with Aquaboggan Water Park, located across the street from the drive-in, told NEWS CENTER Maine that the park owners purchased the movie-screening equipment from the theater and plan to keep it alive.

"[We plan to] preserve the experience of the Saco Drive-In across the street at Aquaboggan," Aquaboggan Water Park General Manager Ethan Mongue said. "In a perfect world, [we will open] maybe by July."

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For now, those looking for a place to drive in for a drive-in will need to head to somewhere like Skowhegan.

"It's definitely very concerning," said Skowhegan Drive-In Theater General Manager Chaz Wing, who is well aware of the situation at other drive-ins. He added that shared business at his drive-in is also on the decline. 

"When I first started in 2017, it was busy, and [business has] been dropping off ever since," Wing said. "Maybe our only saving grace is that this is a bit more of an economically depressed area. The land values aren't quite as high as they are in other areas. There's not much else that can be done with this land." 

Wing said the Skowhegan Drive-In Theater is expected to open Friday, May 6.

According to the website driveinmovie.com, there are six drive-in theatres in Maine: Madawaska, Skowhegan, Farmington, Rockport, Bridgton, and Westbrook.

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